Third party service providers (TPSPs)
Third Party Service Providers (TPSPs) play an important role in the emergency services chain.
Sometimes, a call to emergency services may be made by one party seeking assistance on behalf of another party – for example, through an eCall system, a security system service provider, or medical alarm.
TPSPs are a valuable, necessary, and indeed are becoming an inevitable part of providing emergency assistance to persons or organisations. TPSPs provide a vital function in getting assistance to a group of customers, organisations or individuals in specific circumstances where conventional means of accessing the emergency services may not work or would be an inappropriate choice.
Examples of TPSPs
- Security systems service provider: A premises is fitted with a security system and is monitored constantly as part of a commercial offering to both business and residential customers. If an alarm is triggered, the company’s monitoring centre will be notified. The situation will be assessed based on the available information. If it is deemed that emergency assistance is needed (for example, there has been a break-in or a smoke alarm is activated) the monitoring company may contact emergency services to seek assistance from the police or fire services.
- eCall: eCall is an emergency call that can be generated either manually by vehicle passengers or automatically via activation of in-vehicle sensors when a serious road accident occurs. In some cases, when eCall is activated within a vehicle, the call is routed to a TPSP who then contact the emergency services on the caller’s behalf. The TPS eCall approach is envisioned in the eCall regulations and standards and this approach can be beneficial to PSAPs as emergency calls are filtered by the TPSP and only real emergencies are passed on to the emergency services.
- Health monitoring services: Health monitoring and alerting services including TeleCare and TeleHealth which utilise a variety of sensors (motion sensors, personal alarms etc.) and other integrated devices are widely used by older adults and vulnerable people to allow them to live independently. Telecare/health services are typically provided using a contact centre type operation where the telecare/health staff are alerted to changes in a customer’s condition either through a personal alarm activation or sensor data.
- Relay services: Some TPSPs are specifically focused on providing access to emergency services from persons with disabilities. These are known as Emergency Call Relay Centres and typically have call takers trained to a PSAP standard and adopt a critical communications culture.
With the exception of eCall TPSP operations, no guidelines, standards, or indeed regulations exist at European level governing the interaction between TPSPs and National Emergency services. While policies do exist at a national level in many countries, this can lead to an inconsistent experience and indeed availability of TPSP access to the emergency services. The adoption of standards, policies and indeed regulation could eventually allow for TPSPs to participate more fully and integrate directly into the emergency access and emergency service provision fabric across Europe. However, in the meantime they need to be catered for specifically and individually by PSAPs in each country where they need to provide service to their users.
What does EENA recommend?
Due to the lack of guidelines, standards or regulations at European level governing the interaction between TPSPs and emergency services, EENA has issued a set of recommendations on how PSAPs should approach the integration of TPSPs. These include:
- To reduce complexity and effort associated with dealing with TPSPs as well as driving consistency in the overall caller experience it is recommended that PSAPs consider a position around the middle of this spectrum and develop their own processes which can be applied consistently to any new presenting TPSP who wishes to offer services in their region. This will also improve access for TPSPs and overall accessibility of emergency assistance regardless of the caller situation or the assistance needed.
- Countries and individual PSAPs are encouraged to develop policies, working standards, and agreements to ease the integration with and onboarding of TPSPs. Such agreements should include escalation points and mechanisms for dealing with substandard caller and PSAP experience.
- Countries and PSAPS should consider how to deal with call quality issues arising with PSAPs as a TPSP call is for a person that needs help in their jurisdiction. However, poor quality or standards on the part of the TPSP may have an impact on how well the local emergency services can provide assistance.
- The use of dedicated numbers to identify individual TPSPs can be useful for statistical and reporting purposes and allow PSAPs to quickly identify issues with calls received from an individual TPSP and address these issues. While this can equally be achieved using the calling number, or other mechanism (PSAP call taker identification and selection) use of a dedicated number may be more consistent and reliable approach. Having a unique inbound calling number for each TPSP also allows for skills-based routing to be implemented in the PSAP. PSAPs should publish a point of contact and approach to onboarding TPSPs.
TPSP Special Project
EENA has recently launched a special project on TPSPs.
In our report on Emergency Communications from Third-Party Service Providers – in which we concluded that TPSPs are valuable, necessary, and indeed becoming an inevitable part of providing emergency assistance – we found a number of barriers to seamless TPSP integration in Europe.
In order to address these barriers, EENA has engaged representatives from 8 TPSP solutions providers and 15 PSAP organisations to address and develop a harmonised approach to PSAP-TPSP relationships in Europe.
Work is ongoing within a closed user group. Results will be published in early 2024, and discussed in greater detail at the EENA 2024 Conference.
- EENA Press Release: EENA Launches Third Party Service Provider Special Project
- EENA Document: eCall TPSP and Emergency Services Authorities Agreement Template
- EENA Document: Emergency Communications from Third Party Service Providers
- EENA Conference 2023: Conveyance of Emergency Communications to PSAPs via Third Party Service Providers